This summer Social Business Network and Ético will be celebrating our initiative to Recognize the Unpaid Work of Women in ethical supply chains. Our pilot programme began in 2009 with the first-ever cost structure for an agricultural product that included economic remuneration for the traditional labor of women.
Much of the work women do in the production of agricultural commodities does not receive the recognition they deserve and is very often not remunerated. These activities may be directly linked to production such as winnowing crops after they are harvested, safely storing crops at the home, and preparing food for field workers, or indirectly related to family production like fetching water, firewood and caring for children and elderly. These are tasks that most rural women do regardless of whether their families grow crops for export, local sale, or autoconsumption. Therefore, the value of the unpaid work of women has been calculated into the cost structure of our products and is included in the cost paid to the producer Cooperative. The Cooperative uses these funds to empower women through making organizational, financial, and educational resources available to them. Three years after the start of our pilot project, participation levels of women in the farmers cooperatives has risen sharply. During a recent evaluation of the initiative with the Juan Francisco Paz Silva cooperative in Achuapa, Nicaragua, both women and men involved in the implementation were asked what the programme has accomplished since it’s inception. Here are some of their responses:
- a better relationship between women in rural communities (una mejor relación entre mujeres en las communidades)
- women are taken into account (las mujeres son tomadas en cuenta)
- more active participation by women (mejor participación activa de las mujeres)
- development of creative potential in rural families (desarrollo de de creatividad en la economía familiar)
- independence and security of having savings in their name (independencia y la seguridad de tener ahorros en sus nombres)
- more women are joining the cooperative as full members (más mujeres se están uniendo a la cooperativa como socios)
- other organizations are beginning to recognize the work women do (las mujeres son mas reconocidas por su trabajo de otras organizaciones)
- a positive example of development for youth and the next generation (buen ejemplo para las/los hijos y jovenes y herencia generacional)
Social Business Network has partnered with trade companies, volunteer organizations, farmers cooperatives and universities to make this initiative possible. Through our work this initiative has sparked lengthy passionate discussions about the roll of women and how to effectively recognize their contributions to society. The academics we work with even raise the question of whether the unpaid work that women do in consumer countries has been successfully recognized yet? This innovation in ethical trading clearly strikes universal chords. While it has been enthusiastically supported by buyers in several continents, it continues to be an organic development that offers as much through it’s process as with it’s results. We are looking forward to celebrating these achievements and the bright future this programme has as it expands to help more rural women reach their full potential in their communities.